SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/15 January) – Various loose firearms and ammunition were confiscated by police and intelligence operatives here Saturday noon in line with the nationwide drive “Oplan Paglalansag Omega”, authorities said.
City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas, together with police and military intelligence officials, presented the seized items to media on Sunday and said these were recovered from suspected gunrunners led by Danao-born gunsmith Allan Banson Avelino.
Avelino, along with his son Archie, Richard Zambrano, Emer Ortojan and Jorge Consigna will be charged with illegal possession of firearms or violation of Republic Act 8294, according to SSgt Dominic Rubio of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Archie and Zambrano were identified as gold panners, while Ortojan and Consigna worked at Patis Cargo Forwarders as driver and helper, respectively.
Inspector Gerson A. Soliven of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group said Ortojan and Consigna were arrested on their way to deliver five pieces of magazines for cal. 45 pistol, one Colt cal. 45, one Remington cal. 45 and one PARA Ordnance cal. 45 pistol, at about 12:30pm. The guns had come from Cebu.
An hour and a half earlier, seven firearms were recovered inside a house allegedly rented by Avelino for the past seven months at Espina Extension, Barangay Taft. The firearms included a Pietro Beretta cal. 9mm pistol that bore a “PNP property” marking.
Officials said they are still investigating the identities of the supposed buyers of the confiscated firearms.
Matugas said the incident would help deter criminal. “We are happy with this development and this goes to show that our police are doing something to solve threats to our peace and order,” he said.
The mayor admitted the aborted gun smuggling could be election-related.
The incident came a day before the start of the gun ban for the May 13 midterm polls.
For his part, City police chief, Supt. Joseph Nohara, said it is too early to say that the presence of loose firearms in the city is already serious.
Renee Patis, proprietor of the local cargo forwarder, said in a separate interview it was the first time that her company was implicated in a crime in the 30 years that it has serviced deliveries to and from Cebu.
She, however, admitted that their cargoes don’t pass through the X-ray machines upon entry at the Cebu port.
She added they don’t normally ask from customers of the contents of their package saying this has been their practice. “Next time, we will not allow it anymore. We will really open their package.”
Patis said she never had doubts about Ortojan, a distant relative who had worked for her for three years already.
“Kaluoy pud sa pamilya ani,” (I pity his family) she said, adding she has provided her driver a lawyer.
Patis, however, said she is anxious that the incident might affect her business.
Ortojan on the other hand said he was just a driver of the cargo forwarding company and denied knowing Avelino’s activity.
In an interview Avelino said he is only a gunsmith who attends to guns that some policemen bring to him for repair or “enhancement”. He declined to name the policemen who he said were his customers.
He asked the mayor and Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas for forgiveness and a chance to redeem himself.
Archie meanwhile said he was at his father’s rented house at the time purposely to join a beach party together with his friend Alaba. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)